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Dakota Access enlists big name law firm ahead of court hearing






The E. Barrett Prettyman United States Courthouse houses both the federal court for the District of Columbia and the Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Photo by Indianz.Com / Available for use under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

The backers of the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline aren't leaving anything to chance as they head into a critical court hearing.

Dakota Access LLC, the partnership behind the costly project, has enlisted the high-powered and well-connected Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher law firm to present its case on October 5. The firm has has been named the "Litigation Department of the Year" by The American Lawyer a total of three times, an unprecedented feat in the legal arena.

"Gibson Dunn doesn’t just like to win. It likes to win big," The American Lawyer wrote in December.

A big name in fact will be arguing before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals next week: Miguel A. Estrada, a polarizing figure whose work during the administration of former Republican president George H.W. Bush prompted Democrats to filibuster his nomination to the very same court.


The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals issued an order on September 22, 2016, allocating oral argument time in the #NoDAPL case. The hearing itself takes place on October 5, 2016.

Although Estrada is an experienced litigator -- he's argued 22 times before the U.S. Supreme Court, according to his biography -- he still faces a tough task. His firm did not author the brief that was submitted to the D.C. Circuit before a temporary injunction halted construction of the costly pipeline in a key area of North Dakota.

And Dakota Access wasn't allowed to submit additional pleadings ahead of the hearing, which focuses solely on a request by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe for more permanent injunction.

Estrada also must make a strong impression in only five minutes -- the amount of time that has been allotted to Dakota Access. But it's likely that the hearing will go longer than the 30 minutes that have been scheduled, given the high-profile nature of the case.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has been allotted 15 minutes for argument. Jan Hasselman, an attorney from the non-profit Earthjustice, will be presenting the tribe's side.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the defendant in the case, has been allotted 10 minutes. The agency will be represented by James A. Maysonett of the Department of Justice.

The hearing takes place at 9:30am on October 5 in Courtroom 31 of the federal courthouse in Washington, D.C.

D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals #NoDAPL Documents:
Injunction Blocking Construction of Dakota Access Pipeline (September 16, 2016)
Order Setting October 5 Hearing (September 21, 2016)
Order Allocating Oral Argument Time (September 21, 2016)

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